Yo-yoing in space

Ever wonder what happens if you yo-yo in space? Wonder no more. Rather, stare in wonderment as NASA astronaut Don Pettit uses his downtime to demonstrate the amazing phenomenon of micrgravity yo on a very special episode of Science Off the Sphere.

Science off the Sphere: Yo-Yos in Space (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


      1. Oh for heavens sake. For me, even though he didn’t name my personal preference of “a guy who wants to impress another guy with your physic skills” (even though I doubt my husband would be even the slightest bit impressed), I can happily pretend to be the gal in his little monologue. It would be really great if he had done a “or whatever you prefer” but some times its better to turn a blind eye and just go along with something and some times its better to be pissed off. 

        1. I took the third option. I chose not to turn a blind eye, nor to be pissed off. I was simply pointing it out.

  1. Oh, Cory, Cory, how could you fall for what is clearly a CG marketing video from Duncan Yo Yo intended to become viral. You can tell by the pixels.

  2. best space video ever.

    now i have to get one of those yo-yo’s, especially to impress the gals with the physics of how my yo-yo works!  anyone know which one he is using?

    this guy is a new hero of mine!

  3. I wonder if astronauts get used to not having to hold on to things while in space and just drop shit constantly for the first few days they come back… 

  4. In all probability, that’s the only yo-yo in the solar system that continues to do “Around the World” even when it’s not in use.

  5. For the same reason astronauts should NOT be allowed to submit photos to photo competitions, they should also NOT be allowed in yo-yo competitions. They could win just for doing ‘around the world’.

    Astronaut sticks yo-yo in pocket.
    Judge: What trick is that?
    Astronaut: Around the world.
    Judge: Fuck. You win.

  6. this is a kinda old video, the dragon capsule docked with the ISS and returned to earth quite some time ago… though it was nice to hear it get a mention.

  7. How many that watched this can name one experiment being conducted on the ISS right now?

    It was a cool video, sure, but more and more, it seems the ratio of stories covering the hard science in space vs the interesting educational demos such as this, or beautiful pictures of auroras and earthly lights (both of which I love) is really starting to disturb me. 

    Last year, I listened to a radio show that went to the trouble of using HAM radio to link up with the ISS and conduct an interview with an astronaut.  The host conducting the interview was tech savvy, but in those brief few minutes of allotted time for which he had be planning for months, he could not manage to ask a single question beyond the very standard set of questions asked of astronauts since astronauts began giving interviews: How do you eat?  What do you eat?  How do you sleep?  How do you poop and pee?  What do you miss?  How long have you been up there?  What inspired you? etc.   

    Yes, these are valid questions and the answers do need updating from time to time as technology changes.  But really, if you are at all interested in space science, don’t you really know the answers to these questions?  Have you not seen videos of astronauts in zero-G, playing with toys or playing with their food?  

    It seems we can get a lot of people to watch ‘7 minutes of terror’ for a robot landing on Mars, but I wonder how many are watching, just hoping to see a disaster, akin to watching NASCAR for the crashes?   There is so much more that is fascinating going on up there, but the non space-science media would have you believe we send astronauts to do a bunch of complicated shit no one could possibly understand, so instead of trying to explain it, they give us pretty pictures and dancing water balls eaten by astronaut Jim.

    (Are there no journalists that aspire to be something like Neil deGrasse Tyson?  We need several dozen clones of him.)

    My complaint is one of ratio.  In the popular media, cool demos outweigh the primary science many times over.  (BB is often the exception in a good way.)  In the US, we are paying for all of it through taxes.  Shouldn’t we be getting some better ratios out of the news coverage?  

    Here’s a link about what’s going on up on the ISS now.  Note there isn’t anything about yo-yos, eating, or going to the bathroom, but a lot of shit that could affect your life in meaningful ways.


    1. I agree with you, but it’s not like there are big-time, exciting research projects being done there. None of it is stuff that would make the news if it was research being done on earth. It’s all relatively small-scale stuff; the type of science that isn’t flashy but is critically important to advancing things (and which often, though not always, can lead to major, news-worthy discoveries down the line).

      I think there is certainly room for a good science journalist to dig into the research being done on the ISS and make a compelling article about it, no matter how mundane and boring the research might actually be. I don’t blame NASA for not focusing on it, though, because it’d be extremely difficult to make it compelling for general consumption, whereas everybody enjoys videos of astronauts playing with stuff in zero-g.

      Note that there hasn’t been much reporting on the actual science that the Curiosity rover is going to be doing either, other than the vague idea of looking for signs of life.

      1. I don’t blame NASA for the situation in the media, at all. They have struggled for decades to heighten awareness of technology transfer.

        I believe the biggest impediment to progress in space exploration and research is the general ignorance of the public and the consequent lack of a demand for funding. While yo-yo demonstrations are possibly stimulating and inspirational for young minds (important, yes!) the story that would have been–the story the yo-yo demo displaced–could have been something compelling for voting aged people. Those people that can be inspired to support or action. But lazy journalists and under-educated media consumers set the agenda for what is covered.

        Budgets are limited and Congress regularly tries to cut astoundingly important (and cool) programs, the James Webb Space Telescope being one of the highest profile recent examples.


        JWST is still funded, but it got chopped at one point. Now Congress has put a spending cap on it, so it could run out of funding again.

        NASA is being dismantled, though you wouldn’t know it to listen to politicians. Funding has been present on the books, but spending not authorized. There have been massive layoffs as a result. Teams dismantled and scattered. Two years of hemorrhaging scientists and engineers has taken its toll. And I’m not talking about former STS workers. The capability for NASA to continue is still in jeopardy and it is doubtful it will ever regain the capabilities it had even two years ago.

        The push from the government to privatize space has actually been a fairly reckless shove. I believe the only reason there isn’t serious talks right now of de-manning the ISS is because it is the destination for SpaceX. So until SpaceX can really get its wings and fly its own semblance of a station, ISS is probably safe. But I wonder, when they decide to de-man the ISS, what, if anything, will the people mourn the most? The loss of our advancement of knowledge or the loss of more yo-yo demonstrations?

        Ignorance is a bitch.

        1. The good news is that while the US is cutting its space budget, other countries are stepping in. India and China are both making good progress. Space should be an international enterprise, so this can only be a good thing. And I’d like to bet that when the newcomers get a bit further, when the US starts to feel a bit of competition, NASA will find it a bit easier to get funding again. Meanwhile, the ESA keeps doing what it is good at, sending unmanned probes futher out. This is actually a pretty good time for space science, or at least space engineering.

    2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think this is actually official NASA funded stuff. Most of the videos in the channel (including this one) point out that these physics demonstrations are done in the astronaut’s free time – my guess is that they’re trying to spark the interest of kids who could end up going to space themselves one day, or do something else with physics. If they want to find out more, they can go on the official site and see some more complex stuff. It’s a valid point about popular media’s skewed priorities regarding coverage of science in space, but it’s also a testament to these people’s dedication that they take all of this stuff into space to demonstrate physics and inspire young people in their downtime.

  8. I wonder if his entire career and work on the ISS was a long-game to be able to invent new Yo-Yo tricks and name them??

  9. Waiting for the point in the video where the string snaps, yo-yo flies to far side of compartment, hits something, red lights flash, gas shoots in from another point off camera, astronauts curses, static “PLEASE STAND BY TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES”…

    NASA should send up some swatches of green fabric to post around the station for amateur sci-fi effects workshops.

  10. How is it that NASA and spaceflight seems so much cooler now that the Space Shuttles have  been retired?

  11. now this is why i could never go to space.  i’d be continuously delighted by things like taking the yo-yo out of the bag and having it hang in front of me.  i’d never finish my breakfast!  they’d probably just end up letting me play with a spoon in the corner like a less charming house-cat.

  12. “cuz I’m in space, and I can…” Entirely justifies all his hard work to get there. Love him. 

Comments are closed.